James and Em Foster are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation in the fictional island of La Tolqa, when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence and surreal horrors.
Infinity Pool is the third and latest feature from Canadian filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg. The film sees author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård), struggling from writer’s block and hoping that a getaway to a seaside resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqa with wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) will cure his creative woes. When the couple become involved with Gabi (Mia Goth), one of the rare fans of James’ only novel, and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert) they discover a sinister underbelly to the culture of rich summer vacationers at the coastal getaway.
Infinity Pool is the follow up to Cronenberg’s fantastic 2020 film Possessor and seems to represent something of a slump. This is true overall, but especially so in comparison to that previous work.
Much focus has been given to the film’s ‘wild’ and ‘weird’ nature in discourse, and while that may hold some water given that it is playing in multiplexes, it doesn’t live up to this reputation. An early shot of graphic nudity in the film and it’s oft-referenced orgy scene are commendable on that thread, but that scene, which is quickly becoming infamous, adds up to nothing more than what films like Caligula or, to a certain extent, Society have already done better, albeit with some trippy, Altered States-like visuals and neon colour slapped on top. Much of the film also undeniably owes a debt to the work of the director’s father, the maestro David Cronenberg. The problem is that when this decides to wear its influences on its sleeve, it feels less like knowing pastiche or homage and more like a Frankenstein style mishmash of influence that isn’t executed cleanly.
Cronenberg’s writing is his biggest downfall. There are some interesting ideas in the first half of the film, but nothing feels tied together by an organic connective tissue. It’s all so forced. In the second half everything completely loses steam. It plods along from beat to beat until it has whipped this dead horse into nothing, stumbling into a cop out ending that feels neither resolute nor intentionally open ended in a fitting manner. It closes on a feeling of limbo. The one truly consistent element of the script is a broad and stale satire which in the end simply equates to “Rich people bad, huh?” At one point Cronenberg has a character read James a painfully scathing review of his novel. It’s clearly a moment of blissful ignorance for the writer-director, as so much of the criticism contained within can be equally levelled at Infinity Pool.
Sure, it’s not all bad. That cast are solid all round, particularly Mia Goth, who is proving her dominance of the screen over these last couple of years, but even she, not to mention the rest of the cast, can only work so well with the dreary material they’re given. The practical effects work is technically very good, but on screen it’s utilised with no energy or creativity from a direction and shooting standpoint. Again, unlike in Possessor, where it was displayed brilliantly.
Cronenberg seemed to have a good trajectory going for him; his debut feature Antiviral was rough around the edges and a bit cold, but quite good and Possessor was a near flawless genre powerhouse. We can only hope Infinity Pool is just a bump in the road and not an indicator of his future work.
Infinity Pool is screening in cinemas across the U.K. now.